PHOENIX -- Steve Nash stood and center court and let the Phoenix Suns fans shower him with thanks.
It was the third time he'd done so but the first time he really took it all in.
The first two occasions, of course, were when Nash accepted the NBA's Most Valuable Player award in back-to-back seasons.
But Friday night in front of 18,055 fans at Talking Stick Resort Arena was different.
Though still ever humble, Nash accepted the praise and thanks heaped on him as he joined the Suns Ring of Honor.
"This doesn't feel real," Nash said between chants on "M-V-P" and standing ovations.
"Strategically, to keep going forward, I always tried to dismiss everything. But I don't have to play tonight, don't have to play tomorrow. So I can try to take some of it in and enjoy it."
Nash led the Suns through a trail-blazing period that forever changed the NBA landscape. Nash was the conductor of the "seven-seconds-or-less" Suns that from 2004-05 to 2009-10 reached the Western Conference finals three times. Nash was named league MVP following in 2005 and 2006.
He was the consummate teammate and connected with fans like no other Valley athlete. When the Suns were at their peak, they owned the state and Nash powered it all with an array of creative passes and off-balance shots between dagger 3-pointers and broken noses or swollen eyes.
The Suns haven't made the playoffs since Nash's tenure ended.
"This is a very special night for a special guy who did a very special job," said former Suns chairman Jerry Colangelo, who drafted Nash in 1996 out of unheralded Santa Clara. "Steve, you know I'm the chairman of the Basketball Hall of Fame? So I want to say this without reservation, you will be a first-ballot selection."
Nash ranks third all-time in assists, was an eight-time all-star and, as former coach Alvin Gentry suggested during an in-game video tribute, was deserving of a third straight MVP award in 2007, when he finished second to former Dallas Mavericks teammate Dirk Nowitzki, who attended Friday's ceremony.
"He is the heart and soul of what Suns basketball is all about," longtime Suns broadcaster Al McCoy said.
"I knew it was a special place when I was drafted by the Suns and I came here -- the people, the way the organization was run, what the organization means to the city and the state," Nash said. "It's a very special place to play basketball."
Nash's teams didn't win an NBA title, or even reached the Finals. But they ushered in an up-tempo style that transformed the game in many ways.
"It's amazing to think what we did," Nash said earlier in the day. "Obviously the goal was to win a championship and we didn't do that, so there's always kind of an asterisk there. But at the same time, we changed the game in a way. People play that style of basketball throughout the league almost now and it was a special, special time because something was happening that we didn't really know was happening at the time. The style of basketball -- I think people, the world over have stopped me in the streets, all over the globe, and said, 'I loved watching you guys play and the Phoenix Suns.' And that's not a championship, but it's incredibly rewarding to think that we touched people in that way.
"Losing burns. But you roll the dice and you ply for everything and you lose and it burns forever. But that's what makes the game great. Not everyone can win. We weren't able to win and that's life. But, that's what makes it beautiful. If everyone can win, what would it really mean?"
Nash joined the likes of Charles Barkley, Tom Chambers, Walter Davis and Connie Hawkins -- all who were in attendance -- in the Ring of Honor.
"You guys are the best. You loved me. You supported me and I'll never ever be able to repay you or thank you for that type of support," Nash told the sold-out crowd before he officially became the Ring's 14th member. "Part of the reason I didn't write a speech is because I feel like I'm in my living room right now. ... Phoenix, Arizona, the Phoenix Suns are home. This court means so much to me and it's good to be home."